One of the league's most promising young teams, the Chicago Blackhawks have elevated expectations entering the 2008-2009 season.
19-year-old Patrick Kane burst onto the NHL scene, scoring 72 points as a rookie. Barring the dreaded sophomore slump, Kane should be scoring better than a point-per-game and, with the Blackhawks likely to be better this season, a plus rating is more likely.
While Kane was the Calder Trophy winner, it's entirely possible he wasn't even the Blackhawks' top rookie last season. Jonathan Toews put up 54 points in 64 games -- missing some time with a knee injury -- and was named team captain over the summer. Like Kane, Toews should be a point-per-game producer.
One of the more stunning developments last season was Patrick Sharp's breakout 36-goal campaign. It's tough to predict an improvement on that but, if Sharp is going to see a lot of time with Kane and Toews, it's reasonable to expect him to match last season's 62 points.
Veteran centre Robert Lang isn't flashy, but has topped 50 points and recorded a plus rating in seven straight seasons. As a late-round pick, Lang can still provide value.
Martin Havlat has the talent to score a point-per-game, but he's played just 109 games over the last three seasons. Someone will be seduced to draft him in most leagues, but odds are Havlat will go before he should.
The Blackhawks also have a couple of promising young power forwards.
Andrew Ladd had done little until February last season, after which he put up 22 points and a plus-15 rating in 31 games.
Former defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, listed at 6-foot-3, 246 pounds, puts the power in power forward. He scored 36 points in 67 games last year and is poised to make additional offensive impact because of his effectiveness on the power play (17 power play points in 2007-2008).
Along the blueline, the Blackhawks have a number of quality fantasy options.
Free agent signing Brian Campbell will find it difficult to match his late-season production with San Jose (19 points, plus-9 in 20 games), but his point totals have climbed in each of the past three seasons leading to last year's career-high 62 points.
In Chicago, Campbell will be counted on to quarterback the power play and he should be able to at least match last season's 33 points with the man advantage.
Duncan Keith has missed just one game in his three-year NHL career, and has improved his point and plus-minus numbers in each season. It may be tough to surpass last year's plus-30 rating, but Keith could conceivably again be a 30-30 guy for points and plus-minus.
Brent Seabrook is of similar value to Keith, having matched Keith's 32 points last year and, while Seabrook's plus-13 wasn't quite up to Keith's plus-30, Seabrook also racked up 90 penalty minutes.
One additional Blackhawks blueliner to keep an eye on will be James Wisniewski, who is currently recovering from a torn ACL. The 24-year-old may miss half the season, but his numbers last year (26 points, plus-12, 103 penalty minutes in 68 games) make him an intriguing addition off the waiver wire.
Chicago's goaltending situation is troubling, at least from a fantasy perspective, as long as Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet are sitting at No. 1 and No. 1A on the depth chart.
While it seems that Khabibulin would logically be the one to get moved, it's hard to consider either option as anything more than a fantasy starter until a trade is made.